Saturn, May 31, 2007
—Get your fill of the latest sky candy: a vividly colored new view of Saturn captured by NASA's Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.
The flashy snapshot is actually a false-color mosaic that combines 25 separate images taken over a 13-hour period in February. During a flyby over the side of Saturn facing away from the sun, the probe's visual and infrared spectrometer read data at 352 different light wavelengths.
Analysts later combined data from three of these wavelengths to create this image and provide an unprecedented peek at various features.
When viewed at a wavelength of 2.3 microns (shown in blue), Saturn's icy rings are highly reflective while its surface is darkened. The planet's shadow casts a dark band across the rings.
At 3.0 microns (shown in green), the icy rings are masked while the planet's sunlit hemisphere shines. And at 5.1 microns (shown in red), sunlit sections of the planet are darkened and thermal radiation from the planet's surface can be seen heating the atmosphere, blocked only by thick rings of swirling clouds.
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Image courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona